United States District Court, C.D. California
BRIAN S. S., Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND
CHARLES F. EICK, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), IT IS HEREBY
ORDERED that Plaintiff's and Defendant's motions for
summary judgment are denied, and this matter is remanded for
further administrative action consistent with this Opinion.
filed a Complaint on January 23, 2019, seeking review of the
Commissioner's denial of disability benefits. The parties
filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate
Judge on March 19, 2019.
filed a motion for summary judgment on July 5, 2019.
Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on July 25,
2019. The Court has taken both motions under submission
without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; “Order,
” filed January 25, 2019.
a former maintenance technician, asserts disability since
January 9, 2015, based on alleged physical and mental
impairments (Administrative Record (“A.R.”)
34-42, 187, 209, 215, 288). The alleged mental impairments
include “anxiety, memory loss, hearing voices, trouble
sleeping and nightmares” for which Plaintiff takes
Sertraline HCL (Zoloft), Zolpidem Tartrate (Ambien) and
Quetiapine Fumarate (Seroquel). (Id.).
Lawrence Ogbechie, a psychiatrist who began treating
Plaintiff in February of 2015, diagnosed major depressive
disorder, recurrent, with stressors including the shooting
death of Plaintiff's son in 2009 and the wartime deaths
in Cambodia of Plaintiff's mother, brother and two
sisters (A.R. 325, 328). In a “Mental Disorder
Questionnaire Form” dated July 13, 2015, Dr. Ogbechie
opined that Plaintiff has: (1) “limited capacity to
interact with others, ” due to his limited
communication skills and his desire to be alone and not to
talk to people; (2) poor concentration, inability to
“sustain focused [sic] in a period of time, ” but
the ability to complete simple household routines with some
help and to follow simple oral instructions with “some
difficulty”; and (3) “fair to poor”
adaptability to stresses common to everyday life (A.R.
326-28). Dr. Ogbechie assigned a Global Assessment of
Functioning (“GAF”) score of 55,  and gave
Plaintiff a “guarded” prognosis (A.R. 328).
August and November of 2015, non-examining state agency
review physicians considered some of the medical records
(including Dr. Ogbechie's treatment notes and opinions)
(A.R. 69-72, 81-85). The state agency physicians opined that
Plaintiff has severe affective and anxiety disorders and, due
to his difficulty with focus and sustaining concentration,
has moderate limitations in his ability to: (1) carry out
detailed instructions; (2) maintain attention and
concentration for extended periods; (3) work in coordination
with or in proximity to others without being distracted by
them; (4) complete a normal workday and workweek without
interruptions from psychologically based symptoms and to
perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number
and length of rest periods; (5) interact appropriately with
the general public; (6) accept instructions and respond
appropriately to criticism from supervisors; and (7) respond
to changes in the work setting (A.R. 69-72, 81-85). The
physicians opined that Plaintiff retains the ability to
perform “simple repetitive tasks” requiring no
more than “minimal or superficial interaction with
others.” See A.R. 69, 72, 84-85
(reportedly giving “weight” to Dr. Ogbechie's
opinions) (emphasis added); but see A.R. 70, 83
(claiming, “There is no indication that there is
medical or other opinion evidence [to weigh].”).
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that
Plaintiff has a “severe” major depressive
disorder, but retains the residual functional capacity for
work at all exertion levels limited to “simple, routine
and repetitive tasks, with no more than frequent
interaction with public and coworkers” (A.R. 16,
18-19, 21 (giving only “partial weight” to Dr.
Ogbechie's July, 2015 opinions and to the state agency
physicians' opinions)) (emphasis added). The ALJ found
that a person with this residual functional capacity could
perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national
economy (A.R. 23 (referencing vocational expert testimony at
55-60)). The Appeals Council denied review (A.R. 1-3).
42 U.S.C. section 405(g), this Court reviews the
Administration's decision to determine if: (1) the
Administration's findings are supported by substantial
evidence; and (2) the Administration used correct legal
standards. See Carmickle v. Commissioner, 533 F.3d
1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499
F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)
(citation and quotations omitted); see Widmark v.
Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006).
If the evidence can support either outcome, the court may not
substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. But the
Commissioner's decision cannot be affirmed simply by
isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. Rather,
a court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both
evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the
Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir.
1999) (citations and quotations omitted).
asserts that the ALJ erred in connection with the assessment
of Plaintiff's mental residual functional capacity. For
the reasons discussed herein, the Court agrees.
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